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Winners Announced for Spring ISD’s ‘Chill Out and Read’ Winter Break Contest

HOUSTON – Jan. 14, 2021 – Over the Winter Break, Spring ISD challenged elementary and middle school students to choose their favorite books and take some time out to “chill out and read.”

In the end, three students and two campuses won the Chill Out and Read literary contest. Each student winner received a visit to their campus or at home on Wednesday, where they were presented with a trophy and an Amazon Kindle tablet.

To make the contest more accessible for all, students had access to Renaissance Learning’s myON Reader platform, which integrates seamlessly with district tablets and Chromebooks to put thousands of books right at students’ fingertips.

“There’s over 6,000 books that they can choose from,” said Director of Elementary Curriculum Kelli Anderson. “It’s like a Netflix for books, and it’s all online, in English and Spanish.”

Fourth grader Jocelyn Chapa was presented at her home as the winner of the most number of minutes read by an elementary student category. She currently attends Eickenroht Elementary as a remote learner. Her mother Jessica Benavides says Jocelyn loves to read and is a “Harry Potter lover and Wizard Girl.”

“She’s been reading since she was very little and has a grand collection of books,” said Benavides. “It all started when she was little, when I would take her to different storytimes at the local library.”

Spring ISD Director of Middle School Curriculum Robyn Carrier said that making sure the contest was fully accessible was a big part of the goal right from the start, so that as many different students as possible could join in and reap the benefits – and joys – of reading.

“One of the things that this really does promote and support is independent reading,” said Carrier. “We know that it’s very important for our kids to do independent reading, because that is ‘practice without penalty,’ if you will, and also cultivates a love of reading.”

Mariam Neal, an eighth grader at Roberson Middle School, won awards in two categories: Most number of minutes read and most books read by a middle school student. Overall, she read for a total of 2,684 minutes, which included 62 books over Winter Break.

"I didn't expect to win, especially not the 'Most Books Read' category,” said Neal. “I didn't think I had read that many books, but I'm still pretty excited. I knew I had read a lot because I kept track of that. It was 40 hours."

Over at Bammel Middle School, which won the award for the most number of minutes read for a middle school, campus administrators said that the benefits of the program went well beyond giving students something to do over the winter break.

“It's really not just reading, it’s literacy in general,” said Associate Principal of At-Risk Daphne Wilson, who also oversees reading and social studies at the campus.

“We know that when our kids are proficient in all of the different literacy principles that that then transitions to their success everywhere,” Wilson said. “That means that they’re more successful communicators. It makes them more aware about the world that they’re living in and how they can contribute to that world.”

Bammel Library Aide Valeria Phelps, who helped implement the program on campus, said she had seen its impacts right in her own home.

“I’ll tell you, as a parent of a child that goes here, it’s hard to get them to read at home,” said Phelps. “But with this incentive, trust me, they were reading.”

Bammel Principal Corey LeDay praised Wilson, Phelps and Kelly Luza, the school’s lead librarian, for spearheading the Chill Out and Read program, along with other teachers and staff who committed to making the program a success for students at the school.

“They deserve all the praise,” LeDay said. “That’s what’s good for me being a leader of the building, to know that I can work alongside great leaders and people that really care about kids. We’re going to continue to bring more awards to this campus, so they can see the great things that are going on.”

2021 Chill Out and Read Winners:

  • Most Number of Minutes Read by An Elementary Student - Jocelyn Chapa (Virtual Learner), Eickenroht Elementary School
  • Most Number of Minutes Read and Books Read by A Middle School Student - Mariam Neal (Virtual Learner), Roberson Middle School
  • Most Number of Books Read by An Elementary Student - Brianna Dorsey (Virtual Learner), Reynolds Elementary School
  • Most Number of Minutes Read by A Middle School Campus - Bammel Middle School
  • Most Number of Minutes Read by An Elementary Campus - Marshall Elementary